The Ecology Center Store Shines a Light on Candles

Candles can be a great way to help you relax or bring warmth to a room. However, candles are also one of the overlooked causes of poor indoor air quality and can especially affect your children’s health. Most candles on the market today are made from paraffin wax or a blend of paraffin and other waxes. Paraffin is a derivative of petroleum; it’s the final byproduct in the petroleum refining chain.

When burned, paraffin candles release carcinogenic toxins such as benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, and soot into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that benzene and toluene are probable human carcinogens. There are much safer alternatives to paraffin-based candles that are not derived from fossil fuels.

Beeswax candles are returning to popularity. Beeswax is less likely to trigger allergies. These candles generally do not produce toxins or soot when burned. They tend to be more expensive than paraffin candles, but they also burn longer.

Soy candles generally last 50% longer than petroleum-based candles. Soy candles burn slower and cooler, are non-toxic, less likely to trigger allergies, clean up with soap and water, and produce very little soot. This tends to make them more animal and child-friendly than traditional candles.

Only a very small percentage of the total US production of soy wax is organic. About 98% of the domestic soybean harvest is either genetically modified (GMO) soybeans or non-GMO mixed in with GMO soybeans. All of the commercial soy wax in the USA is made by just four companies, and none of them currently processes organic soy oil into candle wax at this time.

When a soybean is genetically modified, the modification affects the protein portion of the bean. The fatty acid has no discernable change. Soy wax is made out of the fatty acid portion of the bean. As such, there is no way to test soy wax to determine if it was made from a genetically modified soybean. Some soy candle manufacturers will use phrases such as “contains no genetically modified material.” Even if a manufacturer claims that the product has been tested and certified to “contain” no genetically modified ingredients, it does not mean that the wax came from a non-GMO crop of soybeans. All that this means is that there was no detectable DNA to test, since the protein side of the bean was filtered out before wax production.

Candles Carried by the Ecology Center Store
The Ecology Center Store carries a variety of candles that are made from beeswax and organic vegetable wax. Our candles have wicks made of 100% cotton, and come in a wide variety of colors and shapes, from tapers and votives to tea lights and birthday candles. Scented candles contain cold-pressed or steam distilled pure essential oils extracted from plants.

Lumia Vegetable Wax Candles
Lumia has developed its own exclusive organic wax, which is made from organic vegetable oil sources that are certified organic and non-GMO. The wax is made from a mixture of organic soy oil and organic palm oil harvested from organic palm plantations in South America. Lumia says, “Buying Organic Wax Candles helps the international organic movement. Organic farmers build healthy soil, which is the foundation of our food chain. The primary focus of organic farming is to use practices that build healthy soils. Using wax from organic oils promotes the elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, which is done in combination with soil building, protecting and conserving water resources.”

Beeswax Candles from Big Dipper Waxworks
Seattle-based Big Dipper Waxworks sources their beeswax from regional beekeepers in the Pacific Northwest, and their boxes come from nearby Auburn, Washington. Big Dipper supports a variety of education, research, and grassroots organizations that are working to sustain a healthy beekeeping community.

[Photo by Per Ola Wiberg]


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